Composting and Mulching

Composting

Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It is the natural decomposition of organic material (from plants and animals) such as leaves, yard trimmings, and food waste (e.g., fruit and vegetable scraps). Microorganisms and insects break down this material into compost – a crumbly, dark-colored, earthy-smelling, soil-like material. Compost is a nutrient-rich product that can be used in your garden and flower beds and on your lawn.

How do I start composting at home?

EPD encourages the composting of acceptable organic materials as a means of diverting organics from landfills. Under the Georgia compost rules, backyard composting is exempt from state regulation. If you don't have the space to compost at home, there are businesses that offer pick-up services. Some local community gardens also might accept your kitchen scraps. If you are interested in backyard composting, there are many websites and documents that offer guidance, including:

    I want to start a composting business in Georgia. Where should I begin?

    The Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management offers many options for composting operations in Georgia. See Chapter 391.3.4-16 for information on the types of solid waste handling permits and exemptions for composting operations.  

    Does our community garden need a permit to accept food scraps?

    Yes. If your community garden wants to accept food scraps from off-site, you need a “permit-by-rule” (PBR) under the Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management, Chapter 391-3-4. In general, a PBR is a less stringent form of permitting that is used for operations that have been deemed to present a lower risk of harm to human health and the environment. If you accept more than 500 tons of food scraps per calendar month, the operation will need a full solid waste handling permit. See:

    Do I need a permit to operate a collection service for compostable food scraps?

    Yes. If, either as part of your composting operation or as a stand-alone business, you are collecting food scraps and transporting them to a composting operation, you are required to have a collection PBR. An operation is considered collection if the collector is aggregating or combining materials from multiple individuals or picking up from multiple locations per day. This includes house-to-house pick-up, as well as roll-off/dumpster operations. See:

    Where can I find a composting business or compost hauler?

     

    Mulching

    Mulching is defined as the grinding, shredding, or chipping of woody materials consisting of stumps, trees, limbs, branches, bark, leaves, and other clean wood that has not undergone controlled aerobic decomposition to produce a stabilized organic product. EPD encourages mulching as a means to reduce woody materials destined for landfills. Throughout Georgia there are many uses for chipped, shredded, and ground wood, from fueling power plants to providing materials for the pulp and paper industry.

    Does mulching fall under Georgia’s composting rules?

    Yes. Mulching is a component of Rule 391-3-4.16.

    Do mulching operations require a permit?

    No. Mulching operations are not required to obtain a solid waste handling permit or receive approval from EPD. They are also not required to notify EPD before beginning operations. As long as mulching operations meet the design and operation standards outlined in Rule 391-3-4.16(5)(a), they will be considered in compliance. Please note, however, that mulching operations are subject to compliance inspections by EPD. 

     

    Additional Resources